Patriots

Francis the Praying Mantis

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Francis the Praying Mantis

Justin Francis was back on the practice field today, and that's good news for the Pats. Although in a way, it's pretty amazing that it's news at all.

Admit it, you'd never heard of Justin Francis before this season. You might not have heard of him after three weeks. I don't think I did. Yet slowly but surely, you started to hear his name.

He made his first play in Week 9, an assist against Buffalo. He made his first tackle three week later at Miami. He had two tackles and two assists in Week 14 against San Francisco, by which point his name started sounding familiar.

There's Francis again . . .

You know, this Francis kid is always around the ball . . .

Then, in the season finale against the Dolphins, Francis exploded with the first, second and third sacks of his NFL career. He was suddenly a viable presence on the Pats defense line.

So it was at least somewhat worrisome when Francis skipped practice on Tuesday. But far more comforting to see him back there today, with the hope that he'll continue to make a name for himself here in New England. (And that shouldn't be too hard, considering his Wikipedia page is only three sentences long.)

And yes, I know. That's still three sentences longer than mine.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Ex-Pats Moss, Law and Seymour among Hall of Fame semifinalists

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Ex-Pats Moss, Law and Seymour among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former Patriots Randy Moss, Ty Law and Richard Seymour are among 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

In January, selectors will reduce the list to 15 finalists, who will join seniors Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer and contributor Bobby Beathard on the final ballot. The annual selection meeting will take place Feb.y 3, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Click here for the complete story from NBC's Pro Football Talk.

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front seven

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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues